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For many, the biggest obstacle to eating nutritious home-cooked meals is a lack of time and energy. At best, the pantry is stocked with prepackaged meals filled with additives and preservatives Much worse is the number of take-out or fast food meals which provide a quick and easy solution for dinner. Either way, you can never really be sure what is in your food, and eating this way can be very expensive. However, by preparing some of the ingredients in your favorite healthy dishes ahead of time you can save yourself the trouble when the time comes to actually cook the meal.

Here's the idea:

First, determine when you actually do have the time to focus on meal-preparation. This may be on the weekend or an evening when you have the extra time or energy. During these times chop, slice, and dice all of your favorite vegetables as you would for preparing a meal. Fill 6 ½ x 3 ¼ inch snack baggies with your vegetables and store them in the freezer. These baggies hold about one cup of food. When the time comes to cook, just pull whichever vegetables you need out of the freezer, microwave to defrost or use them frozen. This works great for stir-fry dishes or a pasta and veggie dish. Absolutely no prep time needed.

There are many advantages to this method in addition to time and money saved. Vegetables have a short shelf life so you'd have to make frequent trips to the store to have fresh veggies every night. Also, if you don't use your vegetables soon after buying them they might wilt or rot. Freezing them can eliminate both of these problems! An additional bonus is that frozen food retains it nutritional content better than other methods of storing food.

This method can be used for preparing other types of food as well. Buy dried beans and cook them until they are just a bit undercooked. Shred blocks of cheeses for a quick topping to any meal. Never throw away molded cheese again! Chop fruit and freeze for a quick snack or to use in a smoothie.

Search the stores for sales on food you love and buy a lot at a bargain. Keep a list of basics that you want to always have stocked in your freezer. Buy different sauces to use for quick, flavorful meals. With a little imagination you can have nutrient-filled home-cooked meals every night of the week!